The Now/ledge

A Guide to the 'Now' Revolution in News / by Alan Soon

The future of journalism: Entrepreneurial

The Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York has embarked on a mission to save journalism. By making it entrepreneurial.

It has received two $3 million grants to create the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism and a Master of Arts degree in Entrepreneurial Journalism.

This is worth celebrating. We’ve finally made peace with the fact that new journalism requires its practitioners to understand where technology is headed, and more importantly, how to build a sustainable news business around it. Kudos.

In a statement, Executive Director Emily Tow Jackson said The Tow Foundation had become “concerned about the fate of print journalism in the digital age and the impact of its decline on the health of our democracy.”

The first graduates are expected in the spring of 2012. Hopefully, that won’t be too late to save the industry.


Filed under: Jobs,

Why Facebook needs its own phone

TechCrunch’s report on Facebook’s secret plans to build its own phone is thin on details. The idea is wild and it sounds somewhat insane. But according to TechCrunch, Joe Hewitt and Matthew Papakipos (who seem suitably qualified) are working on a secret project. It provokes the question: Does Facebook even need a phone?


It’s not so much about the phone in a hardware sense. It’s about building a platform and ecosystem to guarantee that Facebook continues to own its social footprint on the PC and mobile phones.

Facebook already has a number of APIs, SDKs and plug-ins available to developers. The goal is simple — to get as close as possible to an operating (eco)system on the web.

So why wouldn’t it try to do the same thing on mobile phones?

Facebook’s size and reach put it in the cross hairs of rivals Google and Apple. Much of its survival on phones hinges on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. I just don’t see either rival providing deep Facebook deep access into their mobile operating system. Just look at how Apple’s Ping and Google’s Buzz are turning out. Facebook’s reliance on its rivals in the mobile space is downright risky.

Also keep in mind the line between a traditional address book and a social one has blurred. Arguably, the people who matter to you are probably already on Facebook, along with all their contact details. It’s really up to Facebook to define what a “social contact book” looks like. This is the best way to do that.


Update: Facebook issued a denial to Mashable the very next day:

“The bottom line is that whenever we work on a deep integration, people want to call it a ‘Facebook Phone’ because that’s such an attractive soundbite, but building phones is just not what we do.”

Filed under: Facebook, Social Media,

Ready for a surprise? Portals still matter.

The latest survey by the Pew Research Center on the news consumption habits of Americans has some interesting nuggets in it.

First, the headline story: Americans are spending more time consuming news now than they have been over the last decade. That’s probably not too surprising given the increase in digital content. Roughly a third of those surveyed say they have been going online for news — which is on par with radio, and slightly higher than daily newspapers.

Second (and here’s the interesting part), portals still play a major role in dishing out news to Americans.

At the top of the list: Yahoo! (Disclosure: I work for them).

Some 28 percent of respondents said they went to Yahoo! for their news. This compares with 16 percent with CNN (which is in second place).

Other familiar portals include MSN (14 percent) and AOL (7 percent).

And here’s a third surprise: Only 1 percent mentioned The Huffington Post. A similar number said Facebook.

Filed under: News,

The rise of Xinhua and the future of journalism

The debate over the rise of China’s Xinhua as a major global news empire never seems to end.

Newsweek this month published a piece on the aspirations of the state-run organization under the headline “All the propaganda that’s fit to print.”

It talks about the deals Xinhua is making around the world with news agencies in Cuba, Malaysia, Mongolia and Turkey, providing them with articles, photos and videos.

The clearest view in the article comes from Jim Laurie, my former boss and now a consultant for China Central Television.

“I’m not convinced [censorship] makes a whole lot of difference [for video and pictures]… Bottom line is so important. If you see a source of video that is reasonably good, reasonably reliable, and reasonably inexpensive, you’ll access it.”

Xinhua, with all the money it has behind it, will undoubtedly fill the gaps left behind by U.S. media, who are fast pulling back their bureaus in the wake of cost cutting. Its litmus test for credibility remains the most critical question: How will it cover crises in its own backyard?

Filed under: News,

Public media API — it’s worth watching

Poynter’s Mallary Jean Tenore reports that journos from American Public Media, Public Radio Exchange, PBS and NPR have been putting together specs that would help these public media organizations collaborate and distribute content across platforms.

The goal is an API that developers, creators and publishers can tap into.

It makes sense. The future of journalism will be less competitive on the production side of things; rather, it will be more collaborative.

Production of content — the assigning, gathering, reporting, creation — represents a big investment on part of media companies. Often, there is plenty of overlap. TV stations will send individual satellite trucks to press conferences while reporters will be dispatched to cover the same stories. That overlap could be better managed through collaboration. The goal is the fast, accurate and efficient distribution of news.

“We think through the power of public media networks, the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts,” Joel Sucherman, the program director of Project Argo at NPR, told Poynter.

This is worth watching.

(Illustration: psd/Creative Commons)

Filed under: News

From WordPress to Tumblr… and back to WordPress again

After a brief, 2-month flirt with Tumblr, I’m back to WordPress again. Here’s why:

Dashboard: The truth is, I never got used to the way Tumblr was presenting the bloggers I followed. My dashboard was a mess — a bizarre collection of comic photos, serious articles and bits of quotes hanging around. I couldn’t see past the forest; I never got to the trees.

Discovery: Discovery of new blogs was also poor. The directory of sites wasn’t comprehensive enough and often failed to help me find anyone interesting to follow.

SEO: Discovery of Tumblr blogs is poor on Google. When was the last time you found your way to a Tumblr blog via Google? ‘Nuff said.

Short-form blogging: Most importantly, micro-blogging on Tumblr never caught on with me. I use Twitter for all the “micro” stuff. And I’m already connected to a wider community on Twitter. Why change?

Themes and widgets: Tumblr has a great collection of ready-to-wear themes. These covered 80 percent of what I needed. Unfortunately, I never found a (free) theme that sat well with me. Many themes were also missing important features, such as Twitter streams. It’s the basics that matter.

Filed under: General

Who’s responsible for the Terry Jones madness?

The media bares some responsibility over the Terry Jones and his Koran burning affair. Actually, correction — it bears full responsibility.

How does the leader of a church that gets no more than 50 people at his sermons suddenly have the power to stir anger and protest around the world? In the 24-hour news cycle, almost anyone it seems with a YouTube account and a crazy idea gets to make it on prime-time news.

The international news media should have looked away. This was clearly a publicity stunt aimed at drawing attention to his church. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was right to tell the media not to cover the planned Koran burning.

In the end, it was FOX News and the Associated Press that decided their audiences deserved better than to let a mad man play them for fools. Kudos.

“We do not cover every flag burning that happens in this country. We don’t run every hostage tape… If we tried to cover everyone who wants us to stick a camera in front of them, we’d run out of cameras pretty fast each day. But this is really about just using some judgment.”

— FOX News SVP Michael Clemente in an interview with the Baltimore Sun

This will make a great case study in journalism classes. We’re back to asking the question: What is news?

If there’s anything good that came out of this, it’s the fact that we’re reminded that there are good, sensible people all around the world; people who respect religions and faiths without judgement. Just look at the outpouring of comments online in support of Muslims around the world.

Now that’s a story worth telling.

Filed under: News, Television

GMA Network releases new guidelines on crisis coverage

GMA Network of the Philippines has revised its guidelines on safety and ethics in crisis coverage.

As part of the changes, the new guidelines call on employees to ““assume that police may not be able to handle media or a crowd. Thus we must know when and how to restrain ourselves.”

The guidelines also stipulate a “renewed commitment” to avoid interviewing or talking to hostage takers.

The changes reflect the soul-searching underway in the country’s media industry over its role in the botched rescue of tourists held by a sole gunman on August 23. Media — broadcast in particular — have been heavily criticized for its minute-by-minute coverage of the fiasco and are now the subject of a Senate inquiry.

Investigations show that the hostage taker Rolando Mendoza was watching live coverage of events inside the hijacked bus. Mendoza was also interviewed on radio during the crisis, which police say prevented negotiators from reaching him. In one report, an ABS-CBN journo gave details of the police positions ahead of the failed assault.

GMA should be applauded for taking the high road on this. No life should ever be sacrificed the pursuit of any story. I’d like to see the measures adopted by other major news organizations.

Ultimately, it comes down to cooperation among media agencies. I hope this incident will force an open channel of communication among news executives during times of crisis. We may be competing to get the story out, but ultimately, we’re all in this together and that’s how our audience will remember it.

Filed under: News, Television

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